The landing of a helicopter autonomously on prepared and generally non-hazardous sites has been accomplished in several notable efforts including the Piasecki/Carnegie Mellon University in-flight demonstrations under the Combat Medic Unmanned Aircraft System (CM-UAS) program. In contrast, robust autonomous Landing/Take-Off operations on sloped, rugged sites is largely an unsolved problem.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be partnering with Synetics System Engineering Corp, to develop an autonomous rotorcraft operations from unprepared sites. The role of JPL is to adapt and combine computer vision, risk analysis techniques that have been developed in previous efforts by the Principal Investigator to the problem of recognizing unprepared landing site, detecting and mapping hazards, selecting the best landing site, tracking the landing site during the descending and deriving the safety and uncertainty covariance for the rotorcraft control and navigation. The JPL approach will deliver an image perception suite, which should be able to conduct numerous vision tasks during different landing phases.
This work was funded by the Navy's STTR Phase II program (N10A-T039).